Rattlesnake Shake: A Visit to the OKC Rattlesnake and Venom Museum

I received a text a couple of days ago from a friend asking if I heard about the new python that the Oklahoma City Rattlesnake Museum recently acquired. My answer was, of course, no, followed by an exasperated “Oklahoma City has a rattlesnake museum?”

As I soon learned, yes, Oklahoma City sure does, and man, is it the scariest fucking place on Earth.

Located where you’d expect—1501 S. Agnew—near both Cattleman’s Steakhouse and Cattleman’s Liquor Store, the unassuming red-brick building, which from the outside looks like every other industrial building along the block, is transformed into a living Alice Cooper album when the threshold is crossed, with tattered snake-skins nailed to the walls right next to old toys like spider-eggs and finger-snakes.

The man sitting behind the counter welcomed me in and passed off a multi-copied handout detailing their snakes and, per the name, other venomous creatures. A self-guided tour, there are two sides to the museum, both equally skilled at instilling threads of anxiety and adventurousness in most guests; with wooden walls that hold back the glass terrariums throughout the very thin walkways, there’s very little that protects you from these slithering beasts, but I suppose that’s the whole thrill of the place.

Turning to my left, a large cottonmouth is there to say hello, creeping around it’s enclosure with a Satanic hunger for flesh—human or otherwise—that is currently unsatisfied. He sits right next to other deadly animals I’d never thought would be mere inches from my porous face, including black mambas, puff adders and, of course, Zeus, the museum’s deadly King Cobra, which slithered toward its water bowl for what I hope was a nice cool drink.

Sweat beaded down my brow, however, as I heard a slight hiss over my shoulder; I turned around and was practically eye-level with a black and white spitting cobra, which proceeded to slam it’s head and body into the glass panes in a cold-blooded effort to fill me with his paralyzing elixir of the damned. Fearing a slight glass-cracking, I quickly exited the area, returning to the lobby for a few moments away from live reptiles.

After a lungful or two of calming breaths, I was ready to work my way through the right side of the museum, which, started off, friendly enough, with a parade of desert creatures like Gila monsters, giant Asian scorpions and a South American giant centipede; but, a slight turn of the corner and the ancient symphony of bloodcurdling rattles began their beguine—a warning to those smart enough to turn around, a promise for those stupid enough to continue.

Written in permanent marker on wood, here was a “normal size” Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake, following my measured movements, its forked tongue teasingly darting back and forth like a poisonous tart. Behind me, even more cobras, copperheads and death adders toiled around in their glass homes, putting on a deadly show of force; even though I knew in my heart of hearts I was protected from these scaly harlots, I still had that small twitch of the death nerve that dared to proved otherwise.

Moving back out into the lobby, tacked to the wall were bags of shed snake-skins and even the corpse of a Goliath bird-eater spider, on sale for only five bucks; for dark gifts of the heart, here’s an infernal gift-shop featuring items that you won’t find at the city zoo, I’m hopefully guessing. Instead, I just dropped a few bucks into the donation basket.

Undoubtedly, the OKC Rattlesnake and Venom Museum is the most metal tourist attraction in Oklahoma City, one that will fulfill your outward eroticism of serpentine love while waking all of your herpetological fears, creating a soiled wake of bloodcurdling fear and sexual confusion once you step back outside into the sunlight. Either way, it’s completely free and the idea of a possible snake-bite at any moment makes it totally worth it.

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